KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The struggling Kansas City Chiefs fired coach Todd Haley on Monday less than a year after he led the club to the AFC West title.
The Chiefs dropped to 5-8 after Sunday’s 37-10 loss the New York Jets, their fifth loss in six games. Kansas City committed 11 penalties for 128 yards in another dismal performance, including a 15-yard call on Haley for unsportsmanlike conduct that may have ultimately sealed his fate.
“Timing in these situations is always difficult. There never seems to be a right time,” chairman and CEO Clark Hunt said. “We just felt the inconsistent play the team has experienced throughout the season, including yesterday’s game, made today the right day to do it.”
Haley wasn’t the only coach fired Monday as the Miami Dolphins also dumped Tony Sparano. Jacksonville’s Jack Del Rio was fired last month.
The combustible Haley, who took over a team that won six games the previous two seasons under Herm Edwards, leaves with a 19-27 record in his first NFL head coaching job. But despite the surprise AFC West title last season, it’s hard to tell if the team improved under his watch.
The quarterback situation is a mess, even with Matt Cassel healthy, and the offensive line has three players in Ryan Lilja, Barry Richardson and Casey Wiegmann who may not be back. Despite a background on offence, Haley only managed to coax the unit into an average of 293.8 yards, which ranked 28th in the league, and 177.4 yards through the air — 30th out of 32 teams.
Defensive co-ordinator Romeo Crennel will serve as interim coach for the final three games, and general manager Scott Pioli said he will be considered for the permanent job. Crennel was 24-40 in four seasons as head coach of the Cleveland Browns.
Hunt and Pioli met late Sunday to discuss Haley’s future, and they decided to meet again Monday morning. After coming to their decision, they spoke to Haley in private, and then informed the rest of the coaching staff.
It was Crennel who met with the players.
“I guess we’ll find out what’s similar and what’s different, but I know this, I know Romeo is very similar to Todd,” Pioli said.
“Todd was very passionate about football, Todd was very passionate about this football team, these players, and he was very passionate about winning. Romeo has a lot of those very qualities.”
There had been rumblings about Haley’s status since training camp, when the NFL lockout caused him to take an unorthodox approach.
Haley spent the majority of practice on conditioning and strength training in hopes that it would cut down on injuries following an abbreviated off-season.
Instead, the Chiefs lost linebacker Brandon Siler to a torn Achilles in camp, and starting tight end Tony Moeaki went down with a torn knee ligament in their preseason finale. Pro Bowl safety Eric Berry sustained the same injury in the first week of the season against Buffalo, and All-Pro running back Jamaal Charles tore a ligament in his left knee the following week at Detroit.
After three lopsided losses to start the season, Kansas City rattled off four straight wins and briefly pulled into a tie atop the division. But that was followed by a home loss to previously winless Miami, the start of a disastrous six weeks in which the losses mounted and Cassel landed on injured reserve with a broken bone in his throwing hand.
Journeyman quarterback Tyler Palko has started the past four games, leading the offence to just two touchdowns — one of which came on a desperation heave against the Chicago Bears two weeks ago.
“We’ve had one of those years where we’ve had injuries, and injuries to key players, but that’s typical in the National Football League,” Hunt said. “As a team you have to find a way to overcome that and we just weren’t able to do that this year. Our play was up and down the entire season and at times it was up and down during a given game, and I think those contributed to our decision.”